The Texas Rangers needed some late-game heroics to get past the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game set and look for a series win Saturday at Busch Stadium.
In their first visit to the Gateway City since the 2011 World Series, the Rangers snapped a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth inning on Nelson Cruz's two- run single that produced the final margin at 6-4. Cruz finished with three RBI and Elvis Andrus drove in two runs for the Rangers, winners in three straight and four of five games since losing six in a row.
Neal Cotts was credited with the win for tossing a scoreless eighth inning and Joe Nathan nailed down his 23rd save in the ninth. Rangers starter Derek Holland shook off a shaky first inning (3 runs) and eventually allowed four runs in seven innings of work.
"It was great to be able to stay focused and not let what happened in the first inning affect the rest of the game," Holland said.
The Rangers opened a six-game road trip Friday and are one game in back of Oakland for the AL West lead. They will also visit the New York Yankees on the journey.
Slated to take the hill for Texas Saturday will be Martin Perez. Perez has made one start for the big league club and suffered a loss at Arizona back on May 27, when he allowed four runs -- three earned -- in 5 1/3 innings of a 5-3 setback. Perez, who was 1-4 in 12 games (6 starts) with a 5.45 ERA a season ago, is fully healed from a broken arm suffered in March.
Perez, a left-hander, has never faced St. Louis and was 5-0 with an 0.87 ERA in his last five starts at Round Rock before being promoted.
The Cardinals had won three of four versus the Chicago Cubs prior to Friday's loss and starter Tyler Lyons didn't help the cause versus Texas. Lyons was removed after just 1 2/3 innings and surrendered four runs and three walks.
"Everything just kind of snowballed on (Lyons) a bit. He was having trouble getting it in the zone and just kept going in a bad direction. It was a tough day," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Carlos Beltran had an RBI double and Allen Craig added a two-RBI double in the first inning, while Pete Kozma scored on a passed ball for St. Louis.
St. Louis is still on top in the NL Central standings, holding a three-game lead over Pittsburgh and a 3 1/2-game advantage ahead of Cincinnati.
Shelby Miller tries to even this series for the Cardinals when he takes the mound Saturday. Miller has won three of his last four starts and threw five shutout innings in Monday's 5-2 win over the Cubs, improving to 8-4 in 14 starts to go along with a 2.08 ERA.
Miller is 5-1 in seven home starts and has never faced the Rangers.
St. Louis and Texas are meeting in the regular season for the first time since the Cardinals took two of three in Arlington back in 2004.